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Mario And Yoshi Come Home For The Holidays As Hallmark Ornaments

Mario and Yoshi Hallmark ornamentsLast July I told you how happy I was to see that Ubisoft and Hallmark had teamed up to produce an Assassin's Creed holiday ornament and went on to hope that other video game publishers would follow suit and create ornaments based on their popular franchises.  I'm very pleased to see that Nintendo has taken my advice, as Hallmark has announced ornaments featuring Mario and Yoshi will be available later this year for $15.95 each.

GameStop has offered Super Mario ornaments in recent years, but they've mostly been simple Christmas tree balls with existing stock character art printed on them.  I've bought them, of course, because that's how much I want official Mario ornaments on my tree.  Last year they sold a Mario figurine that was mostly on-model, more or less.  Now that Hallmark is producing these, I have great expectations for more high quality Super Mario ornaments over the next few years.  Luigi, Princess Peach, Bowser, and Wario are all waiting their turn in the ornament spotlight.  Meanwhile, without a movie to promote this year, Ubisoft appears to be out of the Hallmark business.  No new Assassin ornament is announced for this year.  The Templars strike again.

(via NintendoWire)

Nintendo Announces New Nintendo 2DS XL

New Nintendo 2DS XLLest you believe that all of Nintendo's attention is on the popular Switch these days, take a minute to react with surprise at the announcement of the New Nintendo 2DS XL, a larger version of the 3D-less 2DS.  Unlike the existing 2DS which is a non-folding two-screened tablet-type device, the New Nintendo 2DS XL takes on the clamshell properties of its 3DS brethren.  You get all that powered-up New 3DS goodness including built-in amiibo reader and C-stick, but without the 3D capability.  Assuming Nintendo manufactures enough of them to meet demand, you'll find it in stores July 28, 2017 for $149.99.

If this is the end of the 3DS/2DS hardware line in favor of the Switch as many people assume it is, this hardware revision looks to be a good way to go out.  If you're in the market for a 3DS XL but aren't a fan of the 3D screens (and the $199.95 MSRP), this could be the system for you.  Why pay $50 more for an extra dimension you aren't going to use? This is also a great upgrade from the regular 3DS and 2DS lines if you're an avid amiibo user. I have a regular New 3DS and that built-in reader is a godsend compared to using my old external amiibo reader for the plain 3DS.  Nintendo is banking on Switch for its future, but the 3DS platform has been great for its present.

Collecting Games The Cheap And Pitiful Way

ET and the Cosmic GardenIt can be expensive to collect video games.  Sealed copies of beloved classics like EarthBound or Chrono Trigger can sell in the used market for hundreds of dollars, while copies of rare titles like Stadium Events can command prices that most assign to cars or down payments on housing.  Who needs all of that stress and expense when you can collect the cheapest, most worthless games in gaming history?  Platypux Comix gets you started on your new valueless buying spree with a look at some of the cheapest games out there.

There have been a lot of lists written about the most expensive video games collectors can buy. But if you were just starting out, you probably wouldn't start with one of those, would you? Today we focus on the other end of the spectrum and track down the absolute, bottom of the barrel, can't-go-lower CHEAPEST game to collect for each system. These were gathered from figures displayed at, which calculates the average prices old games are selling for on the auction market.

All of your, ahem, "favorites" are there like Monster Truck Wars for the Game Boy ($0.99), F-1 World Grand Prix for the Nintendo 64 ($2.25), and DICE: DNA Integrated Cybernetic Enterprises for the Sony PlayStation 2 ($0.01).  I was all set to tell you the story of the time I bought Virtual League Baseball for the Virtual Boy off of eBay in 2001 or so for a pittance and the seller threw in a second sealed copy for free just to get rid of his stock because the game was considered so worthless, but today on review I find that a new sealed copy of the game sells for as high as $20.  My investments are accruing in value!  So I suppose the lesson here is to take a chance on that cheap copy of DICE: DNA Integrated Cybernetic Enterprises.  Who knows what tomorrow plus fifteen years will bring?

Power Button - Episode 235: Scalper's Paradise

Power ButtonWe gather here today to bid farewell to the Classic NES console, a Nintendo nostalgia item too beautiful for this world and gone far too soon.  As we say our goodbyes, we also dip back into history to discuss some of the most expensive and rarest video games spanning from the Atari 2600 era through the 8-bit and 16-bit eras.  Best and worst alike, some of these older games fetch absurdly high prices, and we explore some of our favorites.   Download this week's episode directly from PTB, listen with the player below, find us on Stitcher, subscribe via iTunes and Google Play, toss this RSS feed into your podcast aggregation software of choice, and be sure to catch up on past episodes if you're joining us late. Remember that you can reach us via , you can leave a message on the Power Button hotline by calling (720) 722-2781, and you can even follow us on Twitter at @PressTheButtons and @GrundyTheMan, or for just podcast updates, @ThePowerButton. We also have a tip jar if you'd like to kick a dollar or two of support our way.

Classic Super NES Rumored To Start Production

Super NESThe online community is absolutely buzzing today about Eurogamer's report that Nintendo plans to sell a Classic Super NES later this year that follows the plug-and-play model used by the discontinued Classic NES featuring built-in games as a one-and-done purchase.  Let's hope the company takes the apparently unanticipated demand for classic Nintendo games sold in bulk at a reasonable price into account when they set up manufacturing targets this time.  Here's Tom Phillips with the news:

The SNES mini (or, to continue Nintendo's official branding, likely the Nintendo Classic Mini: Super Nintendo Entertainment System) is currently scheduled to launch in time for Christmas this year. Development of the device is already under way, our sources have indicated.

Nintendo's plans for SNES mini are also a major reason why last year's NES mini did not see a reprieve from discontinuation, Eurogamer understands, despite the latter's continued popularity and sell-out status.

Of course everyone has their wish list of games to be included in the Classic SNES, and I'm no exception.  Here's my list of twenty-five games that I'd like to see in the console.  I'm limiting myself to reasonable selections based on the Classic NES's library licensees (so Capcom, Square-Enix, and Konami are in, but no Aero the Acro-bat from Sunsoft or Plok from Tradewest), but I'm not accounting for the technology licensing issues that have kept classics like Yoshi's Island and Star Fox off of the Virtual Console services because, let's face it, not including those games would leave a noticeable hole in the library.

  • Chrono Trigger
  • Donkey Kong Country
  • Donkey Kong Country 2
  • Donkey Kong Country 3
  • EarthBound
  • F-Zero
  • Final Fight
  • Final Fantasy III (VI)
  • Kirby's Dream Course
  • Kirby's Dream Land 3
  • Kirby Super Star
  • Mega Man 7
  • Mega Man X
  • Pilotwings
  • Star Fox
  • Street Fighter II Turbo
  • Super Castlevania IV
  • Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts
  • Super Mario Kart
  • Super Punch-Out!!
  • Super Mario RPG
  • Super Mario World
  • Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island
  • Super Metroid
  • The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

How about you?  Which games do you want to see in a Classic SNES?

What Is The Mysterious Secret Behind The Classic NES?

NES Classic EditionThe demand for more Classic NES units is real, but as would-be owners of the little nostalgia boxes found late last week when Nintendo announced that it was discontinuing production of the already hard-to-find console, the reasons behind Nintendo's decisions remain a secret to everybody.  Why would the company kill off what was poised to be a runaway success had it only manufactured enough units to meet demand?  There as been lots of speculation in the media as to why Nintendo is moving away from the console; I've heard everything from "Nintendo wants to sell you a Switch instead" to "Nintendo is angry about how easy it is to hack the console and install hundreds of pirated games" to "Shigeru Miyamoto must personally bless each unit as it rolls off the assembly line and he just doesn't have the time for that", but perhaps there's a technical reason behind it all.  What, if any, is the mysterious secret of the Classic NES's technology and how does it impact production?  There's an interesting discussion happening at MetaFilter that focuses on the nature of the hardware inside the cute little console and why it may never have been intended to be an ongoing product.

I do these kinds of systems for a living and I'm boggled as well. It all smells of a quickie design - these parts are literally off a shelf in Shenzen. Do you really need four A7 cores plus a GPU plus a multitasking O/S to emulate a 6502 and a small amount of custom sprite + sound hardware? - JoeZydeco

"There had been some speculation on Reddit that it was a run of near-obsolete hardware proposed by one of their partners. Some teardown (I can't find a source now) found out that it was shipping with already EOL'ed components that weren't available for back-order from the fabs."

Definitely a strong theory - certainly there are lots of low to mid-range chipsets floating around these days that have more than enough horsepower to run old NES games.  This teardown says: Allwinner R16 (4x Cortex A7, Mali400MP2 GPU) Definitely a contender for getting cleared out.  And the board is like four chips and is the plainest looking thing I've ever seen.

It's possible that they got a bunch of CPUs at a good price but it wasn't ANY number of CPUs at that price.  Maybe Allwinner had some yield problems and all the chips in the Classic have a bad core in them which would make them hard to sell but Nintendo got them for a song and they're fine for emulators. - GuyZero

Thanks for finding that teardown, GuyZero. Knowing it's an Allwinner chip doesn't exactly confirm the theory that the CPU was a rare thing going completely obsolete. I mean, there are loads of A7/Mali parts that could have been substituted in place with a board respin. Unless that killed the profit margin on the product. - JoeZydeco

There's lots more at the discussion page.  It's an interesting idea that the Classic NES is running on substandard parts that Nintendo was able to gobble up cheaply for this little quick side project where any imperfections they may have does not matter, and if those cheap parts are now used up, naturally there won't be any more new units produced that can be sold for the attractive $60 price point.  It's certainly just as plausible as the other conspiracy theories floating around.  I never saw a Classic NES for sale in a store around my area, nor could I ever find one in stock online.  Short of amazing luck or the result of the blood oath, it looks like I'm going to miss out on owning one.  Join us on the next new episode of the Power Button podcast, Episode 235, for more on the end of the Classic NES and rare video games.

Power Button - Episode 234: Another Pass At Season Passes

Power ButtonWhen is a complete game not complete?  When season passes are involved.  We've tackled the practice of buying DLC in bulk before, but with the recent changes to Watch Dogs 2's season pass plans, we felt it was time to take another run at increasingly expensive add-on content.  Are passes a good deal or just a very expensive microtransaction?  It's time for some debate.   Download this week's episode directly from PTB, listen with the player below, find us on Stitcher, subscribe via iTunes and Google Play, toss this RSS feed into your podcast aggregation software of choice, and be sure to catch up on past episodes if you're joining us late. Remember that you can reach us via , you can leave a message on the Power Button hotline by calling (720) 722-2781, and you can even follow us on Twitter at @PressTheButtons and @GrundyTheMan, or for just podcast updates, @ThePowerButton. We also have a tip jar if you'd like to kick a dollar or two of support our way.

Power Button - Episode 233: Into The Wild With The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild

Power ButtonFifty hours into the adventure, it feels right to spend some time talking about Nintendo's new Switch launch title and Wii U farewell release The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.  Blake Grundman asks me all of his Wild questions as we dig into lore, mechanics, and fun moments from exploring Hyrule.  This is your spoiler alert!  Join us for some lightning-striking, grass-burning, dungeon-manipulating fun.   Download this week's episode directly from PTB, listen with the player below, find us on Stitcher, subscribe via iTunes and Google Play, toss this RSS feed into your podcast aggregation software of choice, and be sure to catch up on past episodes if you're joining us late. Remember that you can reach us via , you can leave a message on the Power Button hotline by calling (720) 722-2781, and you can even follow us on Twitter at @PressTheButtons and @GrundyTheMan, or for just podcast updates, @ThePowerButton. We also have a tip jar if you'd like to kick a dollar or two of support our way.

Mini-Review: WaterField Designs CitySlicker Case For Nintendo Switch

WaterField Designs CitySlicker Case For Nintendo SwitchA good case for a handheld video game system is hard to find.  Cheap cases aren't manufactured to quality specifications and inevitably fail to protect your hardware.  Many manufacturers only sell cases as part of overpriced, wasteful "starter kits" that require you to buy pitiful accessories you do not need nor will ever use.  Heaven help you if you want to sport a professional, adult image with your game console and all you can find to store it is a screaming neon case emblazoned with a kiddie property intended for someone a third of your age.  While I'll happily stuff my Nintendo 3DS in my pocket when I go out into the world, the Switch is too delicate and too large for me to comfortably take it around with me unprotected.  I haven't even taken it out on my back porch yet, let alone to midnight basketball games and millenial rooftop parties.  I need a solid case before I even think about traveling with my Switch, so I was thankful when I read that WaterField Designs (which has a history of designing sleek, reliable cases for consoles and mobile hardware - I'm still using their cases for my Nintendo 3DS and my Sony PlayStation Portable six and ten years later respectively) has recently started selling a case designed for the Nintendo Switch.  The company kindly provided a sample CitySlicker case for me to check out and I've come away impressed.

Continue reading "Mini-Review: WaterField Designs CitySlicker Case For Nintendo Switch" »

The Japanese Cultural Significance Of Super Mario Bros.

Super Mario Bros.Much of the lore and visual design out of Super Mario Bros. seems like it was developed during a fever dream or drug trip: a turtle king kidnaps a mushroom princess, leading to a heroic plumber to save the day by jumping on and throwing throwing fireballs at turtles, mushrooms, squid, and beetles.  It's easy to mark this all down as "Games: weird, am I right?", but over at Reddit in the Ask Historians section, the question about whether or not any of the elements from Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario Bros. 2 have any Japanese cultural significance.  The answers provide some interesting information that while seemingly common knowledge to the long-time gaming community is written from a more academic stance than your average list of "didja know?" gaming factoids.  Best of all, it cites sources.

Super Mario Bros. features surly traitor-mushrooms, green and blue turtles, black turtles that can't be hurt by fire, hammer-throwing turtles and giant, spiky dinosaur turtles, along with red-and-orange mushrooms that make you grow, green-and-yellow mushrooms that give you a chance to recover from failure and bouncing stars that make you impervious to damage.

SMB2 has a pink, cross-dressing lizard that spits eggs, and is arguably even weirder than SMB1.

How much of these were riffs on Japanese legends (or perhaps something more contemporary?) and how much was just weird videogame stuff?

The answers touch on Mario's Jumpman origins, Bowser's original ox-like design, the ever-assumed link between Super Mushrooms and psychedelic drugs, how level design trains players, the ever-present tale behind the Lost Levels, and other interesting background elements.  It's definitely worth a read even if you know all of this stuff already.